Observations from the Red-White game

By: Jimmy Carter
Published: Friday, October 20, 2017
Arkansas forward Darious Hall dunks the ball in transition Friday, Oct. 20, 2017, during the second half of play in Bud Walton Arena.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas forward Darious Hall dunks the ball in transition Friday, Oct. 20, 2017, during the second half of play in Bud Walton Arena.

— Takeaways and tidbits from Arkansas' annual Red-White game.

Five takeaways from Arkansas’ Red-White game, a 95-69 win by the White team, which featured Daryl Macon, Jaylen Barford and Daniel Gafford.

Keep in mind, this is essentially a laid-back scrimmage, a very relaxed setting, in mid-October. Stats are inflated by the setting and sheer minutes played.

Poster potential

Daniel Gafford put on a show during pregame warmups.

First, he threw down an effortless windmill. Then, he followed it up with a nasty, one-handed tomahawk. That was just setting the stage.

Five of the 6-foot-11 freshman center’s 10 field goals were dunks, including four in the second half. He finished with 23 points and 15 rebounds, including four offensive boards.

Trey Thompson is a very good basketball player and does so many little things that contribute to winning. Arkansas’ offense is often at its best when he is running the show from the high post.

Thompson will potentially start and have a huge role regardless this season, but he really struggled with Gafford’s length and athleticism. A lot of bigs may have that issue.

On defense, Gafford wasn’t credited with a block but altered plenty. He is nimble enough to match up on switches. On offense, his lack of a back-to-basket game at this point shouldn’t be a big concern. He can score in other ways simply by using his elite physical tools.

He had three ‘wow’ dunks in the first three minutes of the second half. On the first, he drove past Adrio Bailey for a tomahawk. His arms look incredibly long when he extends. The second came off an alley-oop from Jaylen Barford in transition. The third was a reverse jam after he gathered a pass over the top of a fronting Bailey.

Gafford is still raw. His shot is a major work in progress. He will continue to improve in the post, especially adds strength. He’s still learning the game and bumbled a couple passes from Barford and Daryl Macon that should’ve been easy buckets.

But his physical gifts should allow him to make an immediate and perhaps substantial impact. The layup line will be fun this year with his showmanship. The games should have plenty of their own ‘wow’ moments, too.

Jones flashes

C.J. Jones joked after the game that he was OK playing against Macon and Barford’s team because it meant more shots for him.

The sophomore guard took advantage of running with the Red team, scoring a game-high 24 points on an efficient 10 of 18 clip that included 4 of 9 3-point shooting.

He played with a lot of confidence. His jumper looks effortless. The release is super quick and he’s so athletic, he creates plenty of separation when rising up. Whether on or off-balance, all of his shots looked like they had a chance to go in when they left his hand.

He also showed a developing in-between game when he was run off the line, something he’ll have to have to be effective this year. Several times, he attacked a closeout with a nice one-dribble pull-up jumper.

He’s worked hard on his handle in the offsesason and it showed a few times when he came off ball screens and dribble handoffs and read the defense, making a nice pass to a big who popped on one play and a roller on another.

Most of the time, he moved the ball quickly if he didn’t have a shot or lane to get to the pull-up. He probably isn’t going to create a lot of offense for himself at this point, but this team has other primary ballhandlers. He can be effective by hitting a respectable amount of 3s and attacking closeouts aggressively with either pull-ups or straight-line drives, where he can unleash his athleticism.

The next stages of his offensive game will be to continue to improve his ballhandling and honing his ability to read the help and make the smart pass when he does put the ball on the floor. But his ceiling is very high.

He made a few nice plays early defensively, one a pass he stole in transition near midcourt, the other a successful swipe as a help-side defender that he turned into a fast-break dunk.

He’s pretty athletic. Sensing a theme?

Hall makes presence felt

Darious Hall’s stat line doesn’t really jump out at you in the context of the game: He finished with 14 points (9 players were in double figures), 8 rebounds, 4 turnovers, 2 assists, 2 steals and a block.

But his impact was evident. At 6-6 with a 7-foot wingspan, he may be Arkansas’ best defensive option when it faces big wings like Michael Porter Jr., Kevin Knox and others.

He was disruptive on that end, blowing up a number of plays and wreaking havoc with his energy and activity. He was the team’s best performer on their pre-sunrise Cleveland Hill runs and Friday made it easy to see why. He has a motor. He is athletic and long, traits he showed while flushing an alley-oop from Dustin Thomas.

On one instance, he met Bailey at the rim and stuffed the sophomore’s dunk attempt. It was probably one of the most impressive plays of the night. On another, he stripped Jones and went coast-to-coast for a dunk. He will get minutes for his defense and smarts. Anderson loves guys like him.

While he is a smart passer, he isn’t incredibly comfortable putting the ball on the floor yet, which means he’ll need to be able to knock down open shots. The coaching staff loves his form and it does appear solid, but he did miss all 4 3s he took Friday, including one over-shot airball.

Continuing to build confidence in his shot will be key, but he is a definite rotation player who could be an important piece of the roster.

Macon puts foot down

On the White team’s first possession, Macon rose up and drilled a 3-pointer from the left wing. Less than a minute later, he swished one from about 28 feet.

That wasn’t necessarily a surprise. Each end of the court has ‘Bud Walton Arena’ inscribed on the sideline. In warmups, Macon was shooting (and making) from the ‘n’ in Arena, about a 35-foot shot. Some Steph Curry shenanigans.

Macon quickly asserted himself as the best player on the floor, much like he did in Thursday’s open practice. Shortly after the two 3s, he used a nice crossover to get into the paint, created contact and hung in the air before kissing the ball off the backboard with a one-handed floater. It was a pretty play, ending with the kind of touch that made him one of the most efficient guards in the SEC last year.

He is supremely confident in himself. He displayed it on the court and again in the post-game press conference, with a little Russell Westbrook-ish bravado.

There’s good reason for his confidence.

Finding a 4

Senior Arlando Cook returned to practice this week, but isn’t cleared for games and didn’t suit up Friday, with Anderson citing conditioning as the reason why.

That left Thomas, the senior and incumbent starter, sophomore Adrio Bailey and freshman Gabe Osabuohien as the options at the 4, Arkansas’ weakest position from a year ago.

Thomas played a solid game, finishing with 12 points on 6 of 9 shooting, 9 assists, 7 rebounds, 5 turnovers, 3 steals and a block. The 9 assists aren’t a surprise given the minutes played and his vision. He has some playmaking chops and can be an asset with the ball in the high post extended, a la Thompson. More of that, please.

His mid-range jumper has reportedly been consistently falling in practice. Whether that carries over to games remains to be seen and is largely dependent on if he can avoid reverting back to off-balance, leg-kicky shots, which he hasn’t shown the ability to consistently do to this point.

Thomas generally had a positive effect on lineups he was in. He may be the odds-on favorite to start, but Bailey shouldn’t be discounted. He had 18 points, 10 rebounds (5 offensive), 5 assists and 4 turnovers.

His athleticism gives him an edge. The form on his jumper is much improved from last year and he hit a nice, contested mid-range baseline shot Friday. But he isn’t really a stretch big at this point and will need to continue to improve his shot.

He can get in trouble when he puts the ball on the floor if he’s not decisive. Early in the game, he tried to drive, left his feet, got hung up in the air and threw the ball away, then dropped a pass around the free-throw line while trying to move too fast. He had some success when he got it and attacked without hesitation instead of pounding the rock.

Like Gafford, he is still adding polish to his game. Lineups with those two and Hall could be stingy defensively.

Osabuohien checked in for the White team and wasn’t shy about shooting his shot. He scored 7 points in his first 2 minutes. He and Gafford had a nice chemistry working.

His shot is a work in progress (airballed a mid-range jumper), but it isn’t broken. Like Bailey and Hall, he isn’t at his best when he has to put the ball on the floor at this point.

Long-term, his frame and length makes him an intriguing player, particularly on the defensive end.

Stray Thoughts

— Jones and Hall added to the pregame layup line festivities, each tossing alley-oops to themselves off the glass.

— Thompson took several long 2s and didn’t make any. Didn’t hesitate, which was a good sign. Anderson lauded his 3-point shooting in practice, but he hasn’t really shown the ability to consistently hit anything from the mid-range on out in game settings so far in his career.

— That doesn’t really matter, because he is the best passer on the team and can operate as the de facto point guard at the high post. Had 5 assists Friday and was up to his old tricks. Threw a two-handed overhead pass fullcourt to Jalen Harris off a Gafford missed free throw for a layup. Dude just gets how to play the game. He’s so important to this team.

— Harris is fast with the ball end-to-end. He had 3 turnovers and all of them came on plays he penetrated and tried to dish wraparound passes. Either the bigs weren’t expecting them or they went awry, but it was a good thought. His vision is apparent. He comes off ball screens looking to pass and can hit the roll or pop man. He drove baseline on one possession and whipped a pass to the opposite wing, a play rarely made by this team a year ago. Wasn’t credited for any assists, but showed solid IQ and shot creation.

— Gafford was thrown a bad alley-oop by someone, caught the pass in mid-air and in the same motion flung it to an open player on the wing with a touch pass. Was impressive.

— Solid crowd. Excited it’s basketball season again. First exhibition game is next Friday.

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